Professor Ronald Wright’s study on judicial participation in plea bargaining featured on Legal Theory Blog, Law Professor Blogs Network

Photo of Wake Forest Law Professor Ron Wright

Professor Ron Wright is one of the nation’s best known criminal justice scholars. He is the co-author of two casebooks in criminal procedure and sentencing; his empirical research concentrates on the work of criminal prosecutors.

Professor Ronald Wright co-authored the study, “The Invisible Revolution in Plea Bargaining: Managerial Judging and Judicial Participation in Negotiations,” with Nancy J. King of Vanderbilt University Law School, published originally on Social Science Research Network on June 15, 2016.  The study, which is a comprehensive evaluation of all judicial participation in plea negotiations since the 1970s, was featured on Legal Theory Blog in the entry, “King & Wright on Judicial Participation in Plea Bargaining,” by Lawrence Solum on June 21, 2016, and on Law Professor Blogs Network in the CrimProf entry, “King & Wright on Managerial Judging and Judicial Participation in Negotiations,” on June 28, 2016.  The abstract follows:

This article, the most comprehensive study of judicial participation in plea negotiations since the 1970s, reveals a stunning array of new procedures that involve judges routinely in the settlement of criminal cases. Interviewing nearly 100 judges and attorneys in ten states, we found that what once were informal, disfavored interactions have quietly, without notice, transformed into highly structured, best practices for docket management. We learned of grant-funded, problem-solving sessions complete with risk assessments and real-time information on treatment options; multi-case conferences where other lawyers chime in; settlement courts located at the jail; settlement dockets with retired judges; full-blown felony mediation with defendant and victims; felony court judges serving as lower court judges, and more. We detail the reasons these innovations in managerial judging have developed so recently on the criminal side, why they thrive, and why some judges have not joined in. Contrary to common assumptions, the potential benefits of regulated involvement of the judge include more informed sentencing by judges, as well as less coercion and uncertainty for defendants facing early plea offers. Our qualitative evidence also raises intriguing hypotheses for future research.